Last Friday, June 3rd 2009, the city of Venice officially launched a free wi-fi service that covers most of the city.
The presentation and “beta-testing” of the service was made in a rather unusual way: the vice-mayor of Venice, Michele Vianello, together with blogger Gigi Cogo, organized a barcamp-like event for bloggers and journalists to test the service while riding on a boat around the canals of the city. It was called BateoCamp (“bateo” is the name locals use to call the “batello” or boat that works as water taxi).
The city made available 2 boats with a capacity of about 40 people each. One of them was full with bloggers (professionals, amateurs, students, etc) together with the vice-mayor and other personalities. Most of us had a laptop computers, netbooks, iPhones and other gadgets, and had previously received a user and password to access the service.
The second boat was crammed with rather traditional journalists who received an explanation about the service, the scope of it and during part of the trip also counted with the participation of Venice’s mayor, Massimo Cacciari.
At a certain point both boats met and the mayor plus the journalists boarded the “blogger boat” for a short press conference and photo session: the online and offline worlds were momentarily united. In this occasion we had the possibility to interact with Mr. Cacciari (though the real promoter of the wi-fi project is Mr. Vianello, the vice-mayor).
The BateoCamp followed the BarCamp dynamics for part of the event (registration process through a wiki, no hierarchy, everyone can talk, etc) and had as its main objective the testing of the wi-fi service and to create interaction between the city’s public administration and its citizens. It was intended as a kick-start of a laboratory to develop new services for the residents of Venice as well as tourists and business visitors, and in the near future a real BarCamp should take place to discuss this issues.
Some aspects that characterized this event:
The city’s authorities decided to implement a public service (according to Mr. Vianello having access to broadband internet is a basic right of the inhabitants of Venice) on top of which public and private services can create innovative solutions. This represents a novelty in Italy’s rather stagnating public administration environment.
PRESENTATION & ORIGINALITY
Following the launch of an innovative service, Vianello and Cogo also chose an innovative way to present it, that is the organization of a BarCamp like event on a boat. What a better way of testing the reach of the service that navigating around around the city?
As it is normal in BarCamps, there where no hierarchies during the event and everyone could speak and interact with the organizers and other attendees.
This should sound rather obvious, but the event gave all the attendees free internet access. This allowed many of us to keep up with work while enjoying a beautiful scenery and socializing with peers, colleagues and new contacts.
After an initial boat ride that lasted a couple of hours, we disembarked at the Lido di Venezia for a brief conference between the riders of both boats, drinks and having a bite together. We then had access to the beach and could hang out by ourselves before having to board the boat to go back to the city.
You can find more photos of the BateoCamp on flickr, discussions on Twitter or through the event’s homepage. Here you will find a video of Mr. Vianello’s speech made by Michele Ficara Manganelli (video in Italian language).